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"Food scares have become as common as Midwestern tornadoes," the New York Times notes in yet another article about the salmonella-tainted peanut butter scandal, which has been competing in recent days with the mercury-tainted high fructose corn syrup scandal, which may have distracted you from the bisphenol A-in-our-bodies scandal, which may soon be surpassed by the phthalates-in-our-bodies scandal...oh, nevermind.
Our chronically overworked and underfunded FDA hasn't got the means--or the inclination--to protect consumers from the monstrous machinations of that tri-headed hydra, Big Ag/Big Food/Big Pharma. As the New York Times recently reported, the FDA routinely ignores its own rules regarding the "financial conflicts of doctors who conduct clinical trials of drugs and medical devices in human subjects," because "collecting and checking this information before the trials was not worth the effort for either the companies or the agency."
Not worth the effort. Just as it evidently was not worth the effort to act on the mercury in HFCS, or to follow up after learning all the way back in April that Peanut Corp. of America was attempting to ship contaminated peanuts (hat tip to Bill Marler.) Oh, and what about the even more toxic methylmercury that our coal-fired power plants spew, which also finds its way into our food chain via fish, among other sources? "Clean coal" may or may not be an oxymoron, but in any case, it doesn't exist yet; in the meantime, as Treehugger notes, coal-fired power plants "are the largest industrial source of mercury pollution in the country."
We are being systematically poisoned thanks to a profound apathy--or, more accurately, hostility--towards regulation and oversight that extends well beyond the FDA. Robyn O'Brien, a food activist who will soon be to Monsanto what Erin Brockovich was to PG & E when Random House publishes her book The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food is Making us Sick -- And What We Can Do About It in May, noted the parallels between our current financial meltdown and our endless food safety fiascos in her HuffPo post, Duped: A Nation of Eaters.
But the collusion between Wall Street, K Street and our governmental agencies doesn't end with the FDA or the SEC. Don't forget the EPA, which has repeatedly failed to protect us as well--most recently, and drastically, in the case of the Tennessee coal fly ash catastrophe. The EPA doesn't even bother to regulate coal ash as a hazardous substance, despite plenty of evidence that it contains significant amounts of toxins. In fact, the EPA even allowed fly ash to be used to contour a golf course in Virginia, with predictable results, according to the New York Times:
The Bush administration presided over--and fostered--the wholesale abdication on the part of these agencies of their duty to protect us. President Obama is promising to "re-regulate" Wall Street, and, as the New York Times reports, vowed that "when I am president, it will not be business as usual when it comes to food safety. I will provide additional resources to hire more federal food inspectors." He's also restoring science to its rightful place at the EPA after 8 years of the agency's being hijacked by climate change deniers and creationists.
Here's hoping that under Obama, the FDA will stand for Finally Daring to Act. Because I'm sick of writing about all these food scares, just as you all are sick of reading about them.